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How An Educator Overcame Her Grant Writing Fears & You Can Too - Interview with Elizabeth Starr

grant writing Jan 04, 2021


 Join me by watching this interview with Elizabeth Starr. This educator had a desire to learn to write grant proposals for several years. I was honored to be able to help her accomplish her goal. Below is the transcription of our interview. Enjoy!

Rodney Walker Hi there, this is Rodney Walker of Get Funded with Rodney, and I'm super excited today to have a special guest. I'm happy to bring to you, Elizabeth Starr. Elizabeth just recently completed the Rising Star Grant Writing Coaching Program and the Trailblazer program. And I'm excited to bring her to you today. She's coming all the way from Toledo, Ohio. Welcome today, Miss Elizabeth. 

Elizabeth Starr Thank you, Rodney. Thank you so much. 


She's been an Educator

Rodney Walker I'm excited to have you today and have a background. I believe in education as well as in mental health. You were educated, been an educator for at least ten years, and also have a history in the mental health care. Tell me, tell me a little bit about you. And where did you come from in some of your history? 

Elizabeth Starr Sure, Rodney! 

Elizabeth Starr So I have been an educator for ten years. I'm supporting students and doing student engagement and building relationships and just trying to move students forward academically. I do have a background in mental health as well, and I have experience with working with elderly and I've always been as interesting as it is. I've always been fascinated with the idea of grant writing. I want my first job in education was a grant-funded position and that piqued my interest back then ten years ago. I've always been interested in doing research and I'm a pretty strong writer. And so that curiosity about grant writing always is fostered in the back of my mind. And I ran into your program, Grant Central USA through an offer to attend your live webinar for free through our local library system here. 

Rodney Walker OK. 

Elizabeth Starr So once I attended that, it just it hooked me in and I talked to one of your team members and I knew it was something that I wanted to pursue and I could tell it was a good program. 

Rodney Walker Wow, that's great. So you had an interest for ten years, but you project ten years, this one. That was a while. It took me the interest to speak early, but it took a while. But what took so long, would you say? 

Elizabeth Starr Honestly, I had my doubts. I worked in education and I thought for a long time that was where I was meant to be. But that curiosity never dissipated. So when I saw this open opportunity through Grant Central USA, that's when I knew I had to go for it. 

Rodney Walker Got it. So you had the interest. You were in education. You thought that was solely it. But then the door opened and you said, okay, great, let me take advantage of it then you can there. So tell me this. You took it, but you said you had doubts. Tell me about the doubts. What kind of doubts did you have? 

Elizabeth Starr Well, I didn't know if I was a strong enough writer. I did take the next step and do the research on even how to find grant opportunities or how to get myself educated on how to grant do grant writing. So I just really I guess I, I did I doubted my abilities and my sort of motivation to move forward doing that. 


Frightening once more

Rodney Walker Got that. I think a lot of people found themselves in the same position. I know when I was first starting out, it was kind of very daunting because like it's like grant writing seems like some big intimidating thing. But you have to really take you did take the first step. And I want to commend you for that. You took the first step. And then tell me about after you start taking the first steps, was it still scary for you, or tell us about that experience when you actually attended the training webinar. You started moving forward with is still scary or what would it look like? 

Elizabeth Starr Oh, sure. It absolutely was still scary. There was a whole range of emotions. And but you were right there with me and you understood that. And I mean, it was exciting, intimidating. And then at times, I felt really confident, like I got this, and then it would be scary again. So, I mean, I definitely felt full gamut of emotions going through it. But I mean, you got to trust the process. You got to trust the program and just keep going. 

Rodney Walker Wow. So, OK, you so you started you when you started, but you said even in the midst of this and still scared I guess because was it because it was so new? Tell me why was still scared for you? 

Elizabeth Starr Sure. 

Elizabeth Starr Well I, I think it was still scary for me because I you know, in the midst of writing a grant, I just started doubting myself and thinking, is this good? With this even catch a funders eye? I so I guess I just started doubting certain parts of the grant proposal. I thought, oh, the budget, I'm not very good with math or so that kind of thing was intimidating. But you don't have to be you don't have to be good at math to write a budget in a proposal. So it just kind of takes actually writing the grant proposals to figure that out.

Rodney Walker Yeah, yeah. It's really interesting you say that because I know when I first started, I had some of the same gut feelings, emotions. And it sounds like from what you're saying, a part of it is just a natural process. You kind of have to go. You have to get over those fears and you've got to those fears. How did you get over those fears, by the way? 

Elizabeth Starr Well, I, I just kept going. I do meditate, and I think that helped me a great deal. Positive visualization and just having that confidence, looking at what I did do right. And honestly, a lot of what I learned through Grant Central USA made a lot of sense to me. Now it's it fits well because I get it. It clicks lots of aha moments if you will.


The greatest moments

Rodney Walker What was what would you say probably was one of your biggest aha moments. 

Elizabeth Starr Well, I would I mean, there's several throughout the program that I felt, but one of the first aha moments to me was when we learned about the three-legged stool grant writing training on the program. And so, I mean, of course, you want your grant to be well written and well designed. That's a given to me. But yes, it's important. And then also well researched. But the third factor, which I was really excited about is the relational factor, contacting that funder, making that connection, building that relationship. And I mean, that helps you research it as well because you need to make sure that Grant is a good match for your organization. And so to me, that really it all made sense. And it was an aha. 

Rodney Walker You sound like you're ready to teach a class because you sound like you really got it and I hear it in you, which is great. So let me give you a high five! 

Elizabeth Starr Thank you, thank you. 

Rodney Walker Which is great. So you had those different, elements that you saw and that was an aha moment for you. This sounds like the part that really excited you was the operational part. Tell me more about why that part was so exciting. 

Elizabeth Starr Well, one of the things about grant writing is, you know, I kind of looked at it as more of an independent career, but it's really not. And I really enjoy working with people. And just the fact that in this career I will still do that was just such a great realization for me, building a relationship, working collaboratively, and also on the team with the organization. And that was another big takeaway for me, is that you're not you're going to write a better grant proposal if you're working with a team and collaborating with people who are going to be doing the project or overseeing the project, working with executive director or project manager. I mean, the more collaborative you can be with the team, the better your proposal is gonna be. 

Rodney Walker Absolutely. You are ready to teach this. You sound like I got here, so it's really good. So you have you solved then? It sounds like these different skills that you already had that you were able to work in this and this environment as an online grant writer. What were some of the main skills, if you had to think about how you've been an educator or maybe some other educators watching right now, you've been in the mental health arena as well? What were some of those relational skills? Are some of those other skills that you had that you said, oh, wow, this transfer's over here? 

Elizabeth Starr Absolutely. OK. Well, definitely interpersonal communication, research, writing, active listening. I mean, definitely active listening, especially when you're talking with a funder and also when you're talking with other members of the organization, you need to truly understand the project and the mission of the organization, the purpose and the need for the project and all of those kinds of factors to write a good, solid proposal to really believe in what you're doing and that helps you do it well. 

Elizabeth Starr So those are some of the transferable skills. 

Rodney Walker That's a good list and I think a lot of people that I know when they're thinking about doing great writing, they think that they're starting at ground zero. And one of the things I love doing and no, you're not even this yard about this, you've written papers before, the big page paper in college, a 10-page paper recreated is so doable as well because it ends up being a lot of the same thing. So, Elizabeth, so you started on the journey and let's start back. When you first went into the training, you first. I remember correctly started probably about midway before the class was actually going to be taking place. And you went through some of the online resources. What was it like learning a lot before? Some people have to learn a lot. Others have not learned a lot. What was it like being able to go online to get some of the lessons? 

Elizabeth Starr To me, I got more out of it than I would in a traditional classroom because all of the resources are right there for you. It's so well-organized. You've got transcripts from the lectures, you've got the guide guides, which you can print out on. There is even you know, you give tips on how to start with start organizing yourself within one of the first videos. So to me, I mean, just the fact that it's accessible. Twenty-four seven and it's all in that one spot. It worked better for me than it would you know, going to a traditional classroom and taking notes are getting handouts and things like that. 

Rodney Walker Yeah. I mean I think you'd have to do with any track again. Yeah. And the cool thing is that you could learn when, when did you learn. You can learn whatever you want to, but when you do you say? 

Elizabeth Starr Well honestly, I mean that's another great thing is the flexibility of it, because I was able to I mean, I was still working and so I was able to do it after work in the Evening Times. I would that's when I would go through the lectures and study the handouts. So that was really another really great thing. Just committing that time. I will say it works a lot better if you set up a schedule for yourself. So you designate time. That was one thing I had to learn is to structure it your day so that you have it planned in and you know when you're going to do your grant central work. 


The week sessions

Rodney Walker Very smart. Very smart. OK, so then you start the process, you have your schedule, you're coming in, you're putting in the time and then we eventually start having our coaching sessions on those days that we met. What was it like because you got you became really, really tight friends with one of the people that were in the car? Tell me, tell me, tell it was like when you came in and start doing the week by week sessions that would be such that we had. 

Elizabeth Starr OK, that was so helpful. That is one, I learned so much with those biweekly sessions. It's two hours a week. I mean, you basically get it's basically a mentorship or an apprenticeship. So I mean, that was so helpful. And I did become very close with one of the other students. We talk almost every day and we help each other, I think is one of the lectures. You talk about how important it is to get support from others in your life and who really understand your mission and what you're trying to do and learning grant writing, starting a business, or just better your knowledge and writing grants for your nonprofit. It is important and it's important to have that support and, you know, for other people to know what you're doing. And but you also mentioned surround yourself with other people in this realm of business. So it's good that we are so close because we check in with each other and it's kind of a checkpoint. So it's great. It's great. And I mean, those biweekly sessions are when you learn a lot, you do get homework, things to follow up on right away. So it just it really helps your development in knowledge base for grant writing. 

Rodney Walker Yeah, I think that's one of the things I love, living a chance to have interaction with other people that's doing it. And I just doing like stuff this Trelew work. We working on the actual proposal now. Yeah, but you with your project, you actually did a couple of different projects and let people choose which one they want to do. Tell us about how you went about choosing the project that you decide to write your actual proposal for when we're having our weekly sessions. 

Elizabeth Starr Sure. So I do have a mental health background, and so I was familiar with an organization that I worked a little bit with or did some research for in my undergrad. So I reached out to them and they did want help with writing a new grant proposal for a new project. And it was very, say it came pretty naturally to find someone to write a grant for when you're making that offer. I mean, just be bold and make the calls and you're trying to help somebody out and in. Meanwhile, you're learning. So they're helping you out by giving you an opportunity. So it was very, very powerful. And it's great because you do I mean, you learn through actually writing a grant, but you get that mentorship. So, you know what you doing you get the biweekly sessions. Any questions you have you can post on the discussion board. It's phenomenal how much support and helps you get through the whole process, which is another thing that helped me get over that fear, the ability, and the knowledge about yourself. 

Rodney Walker You were not long in the process. And that's that's really important because it's like when you don't have questions and you want those questions to make sure the answer. Now, tell me this. You went and you reached out to some nonprofits. I remember like you said, and I remember you saying that you made some interesting discoveries in terms of how much of a demand there was for people wanting a grant writer. Tell me what happened in that when you started going down that route? 


Accomplishment and Self-worth

Elizabeth Starr Oh, absolutely. So I did get a chance to go to a meeting for some local nonprofits here. And this organization was actually administering a grant. And they had told me within 13 counties last year for a two thousand dollar grant, they only had three applications with 13 counties. And when I asked the question why so knowledgeable people within the organization said that a lot of these nonprofits just don't have the time to commit to research and grants and write a grant proposal. So that to me was really an eye-opener. And I know there is a lot of need. A lot of need. 

Rodney Walker Yeah. And a good thing is now you position yourself to meet that need, and I'm sure you're going to do really well. Now, you started working on the proposal. You got the proposal, you got over all those different things you talked about from those different emotions, which is very natural. And being you actually finalize and put together, I remember, to be a really, really remarkable proposal. Tell me about what that felt like getting to the finish line at the going in those weeks and weeks and working on it and then finally doing stuff that you said you've been wanting to do for over ten years? 

Elizabeth Starr Yes. Oh, my gosh. I felt such a sense of accomplishment and self-worth and thinking of the impact that the project would have. Now, this was a sample, but it's a real program. And I hope to work with the nonprofit who has put on this program. And I hope that they can use this proposal. And just thinking of the impact that funding would have on these, it was for a mental health program in schools for middle schoolers and high schoolers, and thinking of the impact that project would have if I could get funding for that is incredible. That makes me very, very proud. 

Rodney Walker That's great. You should be. It came out really good. And you told me that you took the proposal over to the perspective not to fund it, but you actually took it to the person that was the executive and they got a chance to take a look at it. What was their reaction when they saw the work you've done on the proposal? 

Elizabeth Starr I think that she was really wowed by it. I really do. 

Rodney Walker Oh. The cool thing is, is that you have to have something in your arsenal that you written on a few projects. And do you feel like now have to go on this journey, learning what you learn, being where you're at now that you're ready to launch off, to do more grants? 

Elizabeth Starr Absolutely. I'm ready. I am ready. I want to get funding for these projects that will contribute to society and make the world a better place. I'm ready and I thank you and I feel. I do feel, too, that a lot of nonprofit organizations, they don't know about a lot of the grant opportunities that are available, and that's something else that we learned through Grant Central USA. And that is such a valuable skill. 

Rodney Walker Yeah. And you with your background in education and with your skill with the mental health knowledge there as well. And now see you change what you did and put together a proposal you put together. It's amazing. It's just a matter of time. I know you submit notes before you start getting funded. So just in case you're exactly right out there and you don't right now, you don't have grant writing you look for somebody to write that, but you better get the start right here while she's still available because she's doing some remarkable work. And I'm really, really, really proud of what you've done. Now, finally, just in case you want to find you later. Oh, yes. Go over to your maybe. I know you're on LinkedIn for sure. Yes. And you spell it, Elizabeth Starr. Two R's, right? 

Elizabeth Starr Correct. Elizabeth Starr with two Rs. 

Rodney Walker Yes. So go check her out and reach out to if you're looking for a grant writer. She does. I'm telling you, based upon what I saw, she did a remarkable job. Now, tell me this, Elizabeth. Is there anything else that you would say to somebody or what would you say to somebody? That was where you were just a few months ago, think about this, want to do this, have this itch. But the kind of like right there centered in doubt or maybe like in confidence. What would you say to that person about moving forward to really accomplish learning about grant writing? 

Elizabeth Starr I would say, go for it! Right. Subside the fear and just go for it. Even if you have the fear and the doubts, go for it anyway. Trust the process and believe in yourself. If you want to do this, just break on through and keep going. 

Rodney Walker Yeah. Break on through that's really good. I think. I think when I think about what you've done, that's exactly what you did. You had the desire, but you took action. You took action. And then what I like about what I heard you saying is that you check up on trusting the process and didn't stop until you got to what you wanted to accomplish. And for that, I really commend you. And it's remarkable to see how fast you've acquired the skill in such a short time and then just to see some amazing things come, your way. And I know finally, it's going to come your way. So will you do me a favor? Will you let me know as soon as one of those grants, one of those meetings gets funded? Because I know I'm over here in funding, funding, funding, funding, funding success, and excited about that. So tell me this one last thing as we get ready to wrap up. Where do we work? We're right now and two thousand nineteen in around Alwis, beginning of August. Where do you see yourself being in the next year in terms of taking this skill that you have now is marketable skill? What do you see yourself doing with that skill now that you have is in your in your hands? 

Elizabeth Starr Absolutely. So what I would like to do is I have one of two goals in mind. Either finding three clients that I can write for and with annual contracts, I can do so many grants within a year's time or getting a full-time job with a nonprofit who is looking for a grant writer. And I have been applying for those jobs, so. Yeah. 

Rodney Walker That's great. It's coming, it's just a matter of time, so I look forward to connecting with you later on once both of those become a reality because I see them coming really really soon. 

Elizabeth Starr Thank you. 

Rodney Walker Thank you for your time. I really appreciate it. Thank you for sharing your story. And thank you for sharing hope with others that are on the fence and wanted to do this and given them some encouragement to be able to move forward. I greatly, greatly appreciate it. Thank you. 

Elizabeth Starr Thank you, Rodney. Thank you for this opportunity. I appreciate the interview. 

Rodney Walker You're most welcome. Have a good one. Talk to you soon. 

Elizabeth Starr OK sounds great. Bye-bye.

Rodney Walker is today’s leading expert in Grant Development Systems™ and President of Grant Central USA - Grant Writers Association. Learn more about his online grant writing courses today.

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